Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Your Turn to Respond, Similac

After I posted about the dangers of BPA in formula cans, Andrea of Little Bald Doctors wrote to the company using the Environmental Working Group's sample letter and asked the company to stop using BPA in their formula cans. The following is the letter that Andrea sent to Isomil/Similac. We sent the letter to Sonya, the EWG researcher who wrote the report on BPA in formula. Both her comments and Andrea's comments on the Isomil/Similac letter are below. Clearly, Similac could do better in easing our fears about the danger of BPA in their formula cans. I am reprinting the letters here at Andrea's request. We hope that we get some action, instead of a lot of excuses, from formula companies in the future.

*******

Dear Isomil/Similac:

I recently learned that your company uses a hormone-disrupting chemical called bisphenol A (BPA) as a lining for the metal portions of your baby formulas. Environmental Working Group and FDA tests show that the chemical leaches into the formula and could subject babies to harmful exposures. In fact, EWG calculated that 1 in 16 children fed ready-to-eat formula from steel cans would have BPA exposures that exceed doses found harmful in animal studies. Two separate panels sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have expressed concerns about infant exposure to BPA. The Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction (CERHR) concluded that infant exposure could harm brain development and adversely affect behavior. The chairman of the CERHR panel indicted that it might be a time for application of the precautionary principle for BPA, suggesting that parents would be wise to avoid infant exposure to the chemical until serious outstanding questions about BPA's potential harm are sorted out. The second NIH panel of 38 BPA experts expressed grave concerns that human exposures are at or above the levels that cause harm in animal studies. As a consumer of your product and concerned parent I want to know if your formula is contaminated with BPA, and at what levels. I urge you to provide consumers with infant formulas that are free of this toxic chemical.

Sincerely, Andrea

******

Hello Andrea,

Thank you for contacting Abbott Nutrition. BPA is one of the most extensively tested substances used in food and pharmaceutical packaging and has been approved for use in the U.S. for 50 years. It is also one of a number of compounds used in many consumer products across a number of industries, including the food industry.

Andrea: So just because it’s been used for 50 years means it’s safe, right? Sure. I believe that. Uh huh. Liar liar pants on fire.

Sonya: Agreed. The length of time we've used this chemical is no indication of safety. If it caused a rare illness in infants, we might have traced the exposure back to formula. However scientific studies suggest BPA exposures during infancy could play a role in common health conditions with many causes: learning and behavior problems, obesity, insulin resistance, changes to breast and prostate cells that predispose them to later life cancer. Each of these conditions would be nearly impossible to relate to formula consumption.


As a worldwide nutrition and healthcare leader, Abbott takes the quality and safety of the products it offers very seriously, as well as the packaging and containers that hold them. The materials used in Abbott Nutrition infant formula packaging meet all applicable U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.

Andrea: So, what if the US FDA regulations still allow too much of this chemical of which people are just starting to take notice? Just because you’re within range doesn’t mean you’re safe if the established range of “acceptable” is STILL TOO HIGH!

Sonya: Agreed as well. FDA guidelines for allowable leaching of BPA from packaging are quite high relative to the laboratory studies, and even with regard to EPA's outdated safe exposure level.



Nearly all of the plastic bottles that Abbott uses for its liquid infant formula products are not made with polycarbonate, a plastic that may contain BPA. The vast majority of our bottles are made from polypropylene or polyethylene, not polycarbonate.

Andrea: I didn’t ask about plastic, though I’m glad your plastics don’t contain BPA. I asked about taking BPA out of the packaging lining for your formula, ALL of the packaging lining.

Like other companies, a limited number of our bottled products have caps that are made, in part, of metal, and a layer of epoxy is applied to prevent corrosion and product contamination. This layer of epoxy may have a negligible level of BPA, and the layer does not come in contact with the product, as an additional coating is applied over the epoxy coating.

Andrea: Again, “negligible” is still questionable as to its safety level.


If the bottle lids are lined with a final layer then this would reduce potential for BPA leaching. An even smaller number of our liquid infant formula products are packaged in steel cans. Again, in order to prevent corrosion and ensure product integrity, these cans have an epoxy lining that may contain very minute levels of BPA.

Andrea: “Minute” is still questionable in terms of safety.

Abbott/Similac produce very few types of liquid formula in metal cans.The coatings used on the interior surface of both our metal powder cansand ends and our composite powder can easy-open ends may contain very minute levels of BPA. These coatings are used to protect the metal and ensure product integrity. Neither the body of the composite can or the sanitary end have coatings and/or materials that would contain BPA. All of the coatings used by Abbott Nutrition comply with all current US federal, US state and European Union requirements for food contact surfaces.

Andrea: Certain levels of lead in paint were allowed as well, until studies showed lead exposure was toxic to children and the lead was taken out of paint in the U.S. Why is it so hard to believe BPA could be the same danger as lead was/is? Studies are now coming out about the toxicity of BPA. You could be proactive and actually act BEFORE you’re required to by a change in the FDA regulations that people are lobbying for right now.


Periodic testing of our products has shown that in cases where any level of BPA was found, it was well below limits established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the European Union. As you know, infant formula is a highly regulated product, and manufactured under stringent quality assurance parameters.

Andrea: Just because it’s highly regulated doesn’t mean you’re still safe. And the FORMULA is regulated, but how much is the packaging regulated? I have a baby due in 5 weeks, and you want me to just take your word for it that it’s okay because FDA regulations are met, even with new evidence coming out about the dangers of BPA, evidence damning enough to get BPA banned in parts of California from all products used in the care and nurturing of children? For medical reasons, I must use formula for my children and you’re not really inspiring my confidence that your brand of formula is the best choice for my baby.

Sonya: Agreed. EWG is concerned that the safety levels set by EPA and the European Union are out of date with the newest studies showing BPA toxicity at very low levels. California EPA is prioritizing a review of BPA's effects on reproduction and development. We'll keep you posted about their conclusions.

Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.

Sincerely,

Consumer Relations
Abbott Nutrition

13 Comments:

Blogger Kyla said...

Hello, Similac! Just because the FDA hasn't stepped in and tightened their requirements doesn't give you license to ignore testing until your hand is forced. Negligible amounts are an unnecessary risk.

10:40 AM  
Blogger The Flip Flop Mamma! said...

"let us know if we can be of any further assistance." Um...where did they assist at all?? Sounds like a bunch of excuses to me!

9:17 AM  
Blogger Izzy said...

The subtext of Sonya's replies are "Yeah, we know BPA is some bad shit but as long as federal law allows us to use it, we will — with impunity!"

Thanks Abbott, for giving a crap. We can tell how much you care about your tiny little consumers *dripping with sarcasm*

5:27 PM  
Blogger Mary-LUE said...

Okay... this has nothing to do with Similac. It has been awhile and I just wanted to stop by and say Merry Christmas to you and your family!

8:36 AM  
Blogger trishia said...

just a thought--- maybe this news would help more mothers see that formula is fake food and they should breastfeed their children? I had hoped that would change my sister-in-laws mind, and I will be sending a link to this post to her asap.

thanks!

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PLEASE READ...THIS IS MUCH MORE PROMISING THAN THE ORIGINAL POSTING...This was taken from babyorganic.com. It is the rest of the response. I think they left the rest of the response out! Read on..

Q: Are the plastic bottles used for Similac's liquid infant formula products made with polycarbonate, a plastic that may contain BPA?

BPA is one of the most extensively tested substances used in food and pharmaceutical packaging and has been approved for use in the U.S. for 50 years. It is also one of a number of compounds used in many consumer products across a number of industries, including the food industry.
As a worldwide nutrition and healthcare leader, Abbott takes the quality and safety of the products it offers very seriously, as well as the packaging and containers that hold them. The materials used in Abbott Nutrition infant formula packaging meet all applicable U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.

Nearly all of the plastic bottles that Abbott uses for its liquid infant formula products are not made with polycarbonate, a plastic that may contain BPA. The vast majority of our bottles are made from polypropylene or polyethylene, not polycarbonate.
Like other companies, a limited number of our bottled products have caps that are made, in part, of metal, and a layer of epoxy is applied to prevent corrosion and product contamination. This layer of epoxy may have a negligible level of BPA, and the layer does not come in contact with the product, as an additional coating is applied over the epoxy coating. An even smaller number of our liquid infant formula products are packaged in steel cans. Again, in order to prevent corrosion and ensure product integrity, these cans have an epoxy lining that may contain very minute levels of BPA.
Periodic testing of our products has shown that in cases where any level of BPA was found, it was well below limits established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the European Union. As you know, infant formula is a highly regulated product, and manufactured under stringent quality assurance parameters.
Consumers can continue to depend on Abbott as a leader in providing trusted pediatric nutrition products.

5:11 PM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

Excuse me, anonymous, but can you please disclose who you are and what your (obvious) ties are to the formula industry? Thanks.

Oh, and just so everyone's clear about the source of your information - babyorganic.com sells formula. Hardly a non-partisan source of information.

5:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did not write as eloquent a letter to Abbott as Andrea, but I received the same response, word-for-word. It looked like a form letter, and now I know it was one.

6:12 PM  
Anonymous susie said...

I am offended by the comment about formula being "fake food" Please enlighten me on what I should feed my baby if breast milk is not an option. And FYI. It isn't like I didn't want to breast feed. I was on meds that made it dangerous. I am so tired of being made to feel guilty and that I am harming my child. Just like everyone else I want only the best for my child. Sorry if I am ranting, but I bothers me when people post such negative remarks about not breast feeding. You have no idea the circumstances of everyone and you are just perpetuating the guilt.

2:29 PM  
Anonymous no choice said...

I agree with you, Susie, that it is so hard to not feel guilty about feeding your child formula even when breastfeeding is not an option! I am in the same situation as you and I still feel guilty even though I was advised to NOT breastfeed due to my meds. I wish other moms would be more compassionate that there are some of us out there who cannot choose to breastfeed, especially now as we have to deal with this BPA news in formula cans.

10:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am still confused. Which is better ready to feed in plastic bottle or powder? Sounds like both are suspect, but which is the lesser of 2 evils in regard to BPA?

6:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe the consensus is that powdered formulas have lower levels of exposure to BPA.

8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you'll never be happy...if it's no item A it will be item B...this person was never going to give you an answer you would like.

8:41 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

BlogHer Ad Network
More from BlogHer
Advertise here
BlogHer Privacy Policy

Moms Speak Up

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

A Perfect Post

A Perfect Post

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

More Bling